We’re going to make two assumptions about ANYONE reading this article;
- You’re a guitarist. Or you want to be a guitarist. Either way, you love guitar music.
- You’re currently enduring some form of lockdown, social-distancing, self-isolation, or other government mandated obstacle to maintaining a normal working/social life, all thanks to the scourge of Covid-19 rampaging across the planet. Same with us. We’re feeling your pain.
Strange days for us all indeed. But music is one thing that makes it all more bearable! And if you’re not currently using this time to sharpen your own playing skills, we’re pretty certain your Spotify account is taking a hammering. So here’s a few essential lockdown-themed guitar tracks that we reckon you need in your life right now...
It’s The End Of The World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) – R.E.M.
As if the title of this 1987 track wasn’t already armageddon-ey enough for the current international pandemic, consider the name of the unreleased R.E.M. song from which it originated – PSA, or Public Service Announcement. The lyrics are essentially a ranting stream of consciousness, and “come from everywhere” according to frontman Michael Stipe. And although the song has already been deemed ‘lyrically questionable’ in the wake of one major international incident (the tragic events of 9/11), we’re confident that Peter Bucks superb guitar work will cause joy rather than panic amongst our readership.
Stay Away – Nirvana
“Stay Away” - a no-nonsense statement to aim at anyone physically threatening your social distancing. And a pretty kick-ass song, taken from the 1992 Nevermind album which totally changed the face of the music industry with regard to alternative acts, and featuring the fast-yet-loosely-thrashed guitar work and magnificent vocal drawl of Kurt Cobain at his absolute peak. However, if you think “Stay Away” sounds a little too forthright, it’s easy to express the same sentiments a little more politely if you want that douchebag in the minimart to take a few steps back. Simply say...
Don’t Stand So Close To Me - The Police
Ah – far more polite, in a typically English manner! And one of the finest tracks ever cut by this legendary British trio, who earned a Grammy for it in 1981. Yes, we know the lyrics refer to a schoolgirl’s crush on a teacher rather than concern about keeping more than two metres distance from other humans during a pandemic, but guitarists have a smorgasbord of things to find interesting in this reggae-styled recording. Not least of all Andy Summers first ever use of a guitar synthesiser in a Police song.
Somebody Get Me A Doctor - Van Halen II
The title for this song might have been more appropriate as an album name, considering Dave Lee Roth managed to break his foot upon landing the spread-eagle jump he performed for the photo on the back cover. Fortunately, this track doesn’t limp along the way Roth probably did after his accident – a spectacular sub-3-minute hard rock masterclass demonstrating Eddie Van Halen’s trademark lead guitar genius in full flight. Neither does it feature the epic Charvel ‘Bumblebee’ guitar pictured on the front of the album, which Van Halen subsequently had buried with Dimebag Darrell’s body as a personal tribute.
Shelter From The Storm – Bob Dylan
One of the essential tracks to know about from one of Americas greatest and most legendary wordsmiths. And the most beautifully spartan recording on this list, with nothing more than Dylan’s open-E-tuned 1969 Martin D-28 and Tony Brown’s bass guitar supporting lyrics that discuss the potential for human kindness. A powerful message for this time, where shelter from the storm is all that many of us can hope for.
Don’t Panic – Coldplay
Time to move in a more positive thematic direction with our playlist. “Don’t Panic” - we’d call this sound advice for anyone in these difficult times. And the mellow drive of this track is enough to relax even the most anxious of home-bound guitar hermits, terrified of venturing beyond their front door. Jonny Buckland lends some gorgeously clean lead lines over the top of Chris Martins acoustic backdrop, even adding a pinch of slide guitar into the mix, meaning there’s something for every guitarist to chillax with. The “Panic” in the title apparently refers to a “slightly disastrous evening Chris had spent entertaining a young lady called Alice Hill”, so let’s just hope they’re not self-isolating together...
Stayin’ Alive - Bee Gees
Another positive anthem for a pandemic, and ‘anthem’ is an excellent description of this track –one of the greatest and most recognisable disco classics of all time. Much of this is due to that infectious repeating guitar riff, courtesy of Alan Kendall and Barry Gibb, but also the rock-steady drum track which resulted from just two bars of Dennis Byron’s original part being continuously looped throughout the recording (Byron himself had to abandon the sessions midway through following the death of his mother). The medical profession also has reason to love this song, with it’s 104 beats-per-minute providing the perfect rhythm for performing chest compressions on patients. Studies have genuinely shown that higher quality CPR is achieved if medical professionals are thinking about Stayin’ Alive whilst pumping away!
Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand
Sometime, hopefully sooner rather than later, lockdown will end, and our old normal will become normal once more. Which will definitely mean it’s party time! And what better song for a guitar fan to kick off the celebratory spirit with than possibly the greatest 6-string powered dance-rock disco stomper of the noughties, featuring undoubtedly one of the most original introduction sections ever recorded by a band. The robotic genius of Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthey’s interwoven guitar lines simply begs to be danced along with, and the lyrics cry a theme for all of humanity that’s been stuck indoors for too long – TAKE ME OUT!
Wrapping it up
Ahhhh – I’m feeling better already after working my way through this little lot. Take comfort my fellow GuitarHeads. We’re all in this together, and some kick-ass music will see us through. Until next time...